Jim Wyatt, SENIOR WRITER/EDITOR
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Derrick Henry looks back at the first half of the 2018 season, he can’t help but shake his head.
The Titans running back knows others were right there with him.
“I am my biggest critic, and I wasn’t playing good at all and the whole world could see that,” Henry said. “I had to do something about it, and fortunately, with the help of my teammates, it got better.
“It’s a marathon and not a sprint. It’s all about how you finish. I didn’t start very well. … I just wanted to finish strong.”
The ending of Henry’s 2018 season should offer optimism about what’s ahead.
Henry ran for 625 yards in five games in the month of December. He racked up 759 yards and 10 touchdowns in the final eight games of the season, with a 6.07-yard average. In the team’s first eight games, Henry managed just 300 yards and two touchdowns, with a 3.3-yard average per carry.
His final totals for the season: 215 carries, 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a 4.9 yard average.
Henry said a midseason pep talk from Titans running back Eddie George lit a fire under him, but he did the work, along with those around him.
“I pride myself on helping this team and being a playmaker and helping this team win games, and early on I wasn’t doing that,” Henry said. “I wanted to focus on playing good football and doing what I could. But it’s all about being consistent. You have to be consistent, and that’s what I have to do now.”
Henry’s rushing yardage in 2018 ranked second in the AFC to Joe Mixon’s 1,063 yards, and he finished sixth in the NFL behind Ezekiel Elliott (1,434), Todd Gurley (1,251), Saquon Barkley (1,198), Christian McCaffrey (1,080) and Mixon.
Henry’s 12 rushing touchdowns tied James Connor for third place in the NFL behind Gurley (17) and Alvin Kamara (14).
So what will Henry’s ending mean to how he might be used at the start of 2019?
“Every player on the team will be utilized as well as they play,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “I would say that if he started off 2019 like he ended 2018, I think that would be great. That would be unbelievable for everybody.”
Henry, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, said he plans to do his part to improve. He’ll train hard like he always has during the offseason.
He believes the Titans can use the momentum from the end of 2018 at the start of 2019.
“I will definitely use the momentum in the offseason to get better, and focus on the things I need to get better at and get ready for when we come back in here,” Henry said. “I am just going to focus on getting better this offseason train like I always have.
“Every aspect of my game I can get better and improve on. I am always going to train hard in the offseason, and get better what I need to get better at and come in here in April and continue to work hard.
“The sky is the limit,” Henry said when discussing the entire offense. “Everybody just has to get healthy, which I know we will. Have a great offseason, and train hard. We just have to come in here with the mindset to be ready to go when we get back.”